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Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota

Former Republican Rep. Jason LewisJason Mark LewisThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states GOP sees path to hold Senate majority Minnesota Senate candidate Jason Lewis discharged from hospital MORE (Minn.) announced Thursday he will challenge Sen. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithBiden to campaign in Minnesota as GOP ups pressure in 'sleeper' state The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Election night could be a bit messy The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states MORE (D-Minn.) in the Gopher State’s Senate race next year. 

Lewis, who was elected to the House in 2016 and served a single term before losing reelection, cast his campaign as a crusade for a list of conservative cultural touchpoints against a “radical political movement” he says is gaining prominence in Washington.

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“Today we are at a crossroads in Minnesota and across this country not seen since the chaos and turmoil of the 1960s,” Lewis said in his campaign launch video. “Private property, religious liberty, due process, the pride of citizenship, the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, even Betsy Ross’s flag, are now seen as dispensable relics to a radical political movement that appears to be gaining steam in the corridors of power.”

Lewis went on to accuse liberals of “declaring border walls immoral, but not infanticide” and wanting to “abolish [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] ICE, private health insurance, welfare work requirements, air travel, fossil fuels, the internal combustion engine, why, capitalism itself.”

“Well, I’m not going to sit on the sidelines. I’m going to fight back,” he said. 

Lewis focused on tying Smith to the so-called “squad,” a group of four progressive, freshman congresswomen of color made up of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez'Drink water and don't be racist': Ocasio-Cortez gives Republicans upset over Vanity Fair outfit 'pointers' on how to look better OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump strips protections for Tongass forest, opening it to logging | Interior 'propaganda' video and tweets may violate ethics laws, experts say | Democrats see Green New Deal yielding gains despite GOP attacks Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' MORE (D-N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOcasio-Cortez: Republicans don't believe Democrats 'have the stones to play hardball' Progressive lawmakers call for United Nations probe into DHS 'human rights abuses' Ocasio-Cortez hits Trump for 'disrespect' over calling her AOC during debates MORE (D-Minn.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyGirl Scouts spark backlash from left after congratulating Justice Amy Coney Barrett Progressive lawmakers call for United Nations probe into DHS 'human rights abuses' Ocasio-Cortez hits Trump for 'disrespect' over calling her AOC during debates MORE (D-Mass.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibProgressive lawmakers call for United Nations probe into DHS 'human rights abuses' Ocasio-Cortez hits Trump for 'disrespect' over calling her AOC during debates Ocasio-Cortez draws hundreds of thousands of viewers on Twitch livestream MORE (D-Mich.), who have sparked widespread conservative ire over their advocacy for a slate of social justice issues.

His announcement comes as the GOP is gearing up for war in Minnesota, a state where Republicans are keen on gaining ground after President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked by platform's pre-election blackout Mnuchin says he learned of Pelosi's letter to him about stimulus talks 'in the press' Harris to travel to Texas Friday after polls show tie between Trump, Biden MORE narrowly lost there by roughly 1.5 points in 2016.

Lewis won a suburban seat in 2016 but was ousted by about 6 points in 2018 amid a nationwide Democratic surge in similar districts that was viewed as a rebuke of the White House.

On his campaign website, Lewis touted his votes for the GOP’s tax cut plan and efforts to slash regulations while in the House.

He will have an uphill battle in his effort to unseat Smith, who was appointed to her role in January 2018 to fill the seat vacated after Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenTina Smith and Jason Lewis tied in Minnesota Ted Cruz mocks Al Franken over 'I Hate Ted Cruz Pint Glass' GOP Senate candidate says Trump, Republicans will surprise in Minnesota MORE (D) resigned. She handily won the 2018 special election in November by 11 points. 

Ken Martin, chair of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, panned Lewis as Trump’s “hand-picked” candidate in a statement and expressed confidence that “Minnesota voters will reject this failed attempt at a second act.” 

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the race as “Likely Democratic.”